Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Different Type of Abortion [Clinton Wilcox]

A friend shared an article with me from someone named Catherine Deveny about what she calls "financial abortion", the idea that if a woman can decide she doesn't want to be a parent and opt out through abortion, men should be able to do the same. I didn't know who Deveny is but after doing a little research I discovered that she's an Australian comedian.

The idea behind "financial abortion" is that if a man indicates to a woman before they have sex that he does not want to have a child, and the couple uses contraceptives to try and ensure that she doesn't get pregnant, then if the contraceptives fail and the woman winds up pregnant, he has the right to opt out during the early parts of pregnancy. This means he can essentially sign all his rights, responsibilities, and privileges of fatherhood away, cutting all financial and emotional ties with the child. She says a "financial abortion" is also known as a "paper abortion" or "statutory abortion", but this is literally the first I've ever heard of this idea. I'm left to wonder how there can be so many other people who call this idea by other names. It's certainly not an idea that's gained any traction in the abortion literature. Deveny indicates that the idea came from sociologist Francis K. Goldscheider in 1998. David Boonin, however, has argued that even though (he believes) women have the right to an abortion, it does not follow that a father has the right to opt out of pregnancy since the question of whether or not to have an abortion or whether or not someone should pay child support are two different questions, and a legal obligation to pay child support does not necessarily translate into a moral obligation to pay it (see Boonin, A Defense of Abortion, Cambridge University Press, 2003, 4.11). I may respond to Goldschedier's article in the future, because it rests on very problematic assumptions.

As I have heard it said, if you get your philosophy from comedians don't be surprised if it's a joke. Her article is, as one might expect, poorly reasoned. Comedians have never been bastions of critical thinking, from Rosanne Barr's screed that the pro-life movement is just a bunch of old, white men who want to control and enslave women, to Whoopi Golderg's fallacious rant that pro-life people should shut up and adopt all the unwanted children who are conceived and not aborted, to even the late George Carlin's ridiculous diatribe that pro-life people care about the unborn but "you're on your own" once you're born. Comedians are not critical thinkers not just because they have no specific training in logic and philosophy (although I did catch a recent routine by Jerry Seinfeld that impressively incorporated metaphysics), but also because comedy is based on logical fallacies (most commonly, the fallacy of equivocation). Only those who are not skilled in logic would put forth an argument by a comedian as a serious critique of an intellectual position.

To be honest, I do, at least, think that Deveny's position is consistent. I agree with her, that if you allow a woman to opt out of parenthood through abortion, then it's inconsistent (in fact, one could say it's sexist) to prevent men from doing the same, opting out of having to pay child support and give up tens of thousands of dollars in raising this child. However, it should be obvious that the fact there is child support is a result of schizophrenic thinking on the part of our country, since it does show that parents (namely, fathers) inherently have responsibilities to their children, even though it seems to indicate that mothers don't have an inherent responsibility to their child because abortion is legal. Additionally, allowing fathers to "financially abort" their child raises a moral hazard because it might actually leave a woman thinking that she can't raise her child alone and make it more likely she'll pursue an abortion. So while it's inconsistent, it might lead to fewer abortions by forbidding a man from "financially aborting" his own child.

Deveny starts out by arguing that if a man has not indicated before having sex that he wants to have a baby with the woman, it is fair to assume that he doesn't. Unfortunately, Deveny has it backward here. She's ignorant of basic biology (more on that below), but as sex makes babies, and this has been known from time immemorial, it is quite fair for a woman to assume that if a man has sex with her, and sex makes babies, he wants to have a baby with her. Only by divorcing sex from reproduction can Deveny's argument make sense, but it is logically impossible to separate the two (though it doesn't stop people like Deveny from trying).

Aside from her misunderstanding of the causal link between sex and pregnancy, Deveny's article also rests on another misunderstanding that clouds the issue. She says that women need abortion because they need to have the right to decide when to become parents. It is, of course, true that everyone should be able to decide when they want to become parents, but the time to decide is before having sex -- after sex, if the woman becomes pregnant, the man and woman are already parents, and now deciding "when to become parents" means deciding whether or not to kill their children to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.

One section of her article caused me to nearly laugh out loud. Following a paragraph in which she talked about the "what ifs" of technology being able to aid in men having "financial abortions," she wrote the following paragraph:
A topic like this also raises anecdotes about women "lying" about their contraception in order to "trap" men into having babies, and of men who agree to having children then abandoning them. But these "what ifs" muddy the discussion.
Did you catch that? Apparently considering "what ifs" are appropriate when it comes to defending her position, but when it comes to having to deal with legitimate possible criticisms, they should be avoided because they only "muddy the discussion". We should just agree with Deveny, no matter how outlandish her position is. This kind of double-think is all too common among abortion-choice advocates (see Joseph Dellapenna's book Dispelling the Myths of Abortion History for more on the topic of "abortion distortion").

An argument Deveny uses to bolster her case is that allowing "financial abortion" would be less traumatic and disruptive for the child and more empowering for the woman.

Her argument that it would be more empowering for women is that she would have sex with a guy in full knowledge of what his intentions are (despite the fact that she brushed away possible objections that a man could deceive her into having sex with her as "muddying the discussion"). As I've argued time and again, abortion is not empowering for women. In fact, it treats women as less than human because we don't hold her responsible for her actions (i.e. conceiving a child), and it allows men to treat women as sex objects and then get "rid of the consequences" of their sexual exploits. So arguing that this would be empowering for women is completely off the mark (and surprising for someone who considers herself a feminist).

Her argument that it would be less traumatic and disruptive for the child is that abandoning the child early in life would "surely" (another "what if") be less traumatic and disruptive to abandon the child early in life than later in life. Disruptive, sure, as the father who abandons the child later in life is abandoning all the child has worked for and done in school, sports, band, etc. But she offers no evidence that it would be less traumatic for a child to be abandoned early in life than later in life. Also, to say something is "less traumatic" is not to say that it is not traumatic at all, so shouldn't it be seen as morally obligatory for a father not to traumatize his child at all?

The section after this one contains the most laughably poor reasoning in the entire paper (and that's saying something). She wrote that when she put this idea out on Facebook, the response she received was "surprisingly archaic" (not "progressive"). What is this "archaic" view? The fact that since sex creates babies, whoever engages in sex must take responsibility for the children that result. Of course, anyone who understands biology knows that there is a causal link between sex and pregnancy: The man and woman have sex, this results in the male ejecting his sperm into the woman, the sperm meets the egg in the fallopian tube, an embryo is conceived (as a single-cell zygote), the tube pushes the embryo along with tiny hairs called cilia, and the embryo ends up in the uterus and implants itself there. Why am I having to explain eighth grade biology to a grown woman?

Deveny commits not one, but two logical fallacies in this section: First, poisoning the well by dismissing this point of view as "punishing people for pleasure," and two, chronological snobbery, the idea that because this is an "old" idea, it is therefore wrong and we should "move past it". But as Chesterton says, saying that truth is dependent on what year it is no less arbitrary than saying Christianity is true on Monday, Islam is true on Tuesday, and atheism is true on Wednesday. She might as well say "isn't the belief that the earth revolves around the sun an archaic position, and we should move past it?" Sex has not changed in the long history of human interaction. Sex created Pebbles when Fred and Wilma had it, and sex created Deveny when her parents had it. Sex creates children, and engaging in an act that creates children grounds an obligation to care for those children. Deveny doesn't even attempt to give a good argument here, just dismissing people like me as "backward cavemen" (though not in so many words). In this case, Fred and Wilma have the intellectual upper hand.

Additionally, it would be nice if every child was wanted and every parent was willing. But unlike Deveny and many abortion-choice advocates who repeat this mantra, I don't believe in killing unwanted people.

Her next section is arguing against the "archaic notion" (her words) of men providing for women. I think she's mistaken in this section, but it's not critical to my response to address it.

Deveny's following section is regarding whether or not abortion is dangerous to women. She starts off with a logical fallacy, the hasty generalization by pointing to herself as having had an abortion that didn't damage her, so abortion is not inherently dangerous. Aside from being fallacious, there are many documented cases of abortion being dangerous for women. Of course, she doesn't back up any of her claims so we should take them with a grain of salt. However, her section here does highlight the danger of focusing on abortion's effect on women as a pro-life argument (rather than just something to bolster the idea that there is something wrong with abortion). All the abortion-choice crowd has to do is produce women who haven't been damaged or emotional scarred by women and you lose the whole impact of your argument. At any rate, it's not critical for me to support the idea that abortion harms women, because I believe we need to stay focused on the real reason abortion is immoral -- it intentionally and directly kills an innocent human being.

Of course, Deveny continues harping on the idea that a woman can choose what she wants to do: abort, adopt, joint parent, or sole parent. This shows that she, like many abortion-choice advocates, is not focused on what's best for the child (for let's face it, abortion is never best for the child). The only equation Deveny cares about is who is going to parent, not about what the best situation is for the child to be raised. The best thing for children is to be raised by both parents in a low-conflict environment. If Deveny cared about children, sole parenting wouldn't be in her equation as to how a woman might choose to parent (and that's, of course, ignoring that abortion should never be on your mind if you care about what's best for the child).

Deveny ends her piece by saying that her life is much different than women who have come before because she had the "freedom" to decide when to become a mother. Of course, that is true -- but as should be blatantly obvious, "different" does not equate to "better". Society is worse off because they are killing innocent human children, and women who support this idea are not only supporting a cause that goes against their very nature, but also a cause that gives men more freedom to treat them as sex objects. This is unbecoming a feminist, and it's unbecoming a human being.

Friday, December 2, 2016

An Analysis of Arrival (from a pro-life perspective) [Clinton Wilcox]

I recently saw the movie Arrival in my local theater. Some have been touting this movie as a pro-life movie, and one of the protagonists, Louise Banks (played by Amy Adams), as a pro-life ion. I'll be examining this movie from a pro-life perspective, but for an excellent analysis of the themes in the movie, check out this review from J.W. Wartick.

Obviously there will be spoilers in this review, since I'm going to be analyzing it. So if you haven't seen the movie and don't want it spoiled, go and see it before you read this review. It's an excellent film, well worth your money.

Arrival is a film about a group of alien spacecrafts that reach earth and hover over various locations around the globe, such as the United States, China, and Russia. Nothing is known about the aliens, so the United States brings in a linguist, Banks, and a physicist, Ian Donnelly (played by Jeremy Renner), to see if they can learn how to communicate with the aliens. Banks eventually starts to learn their language (as well as linguists from the other powers which have their own alien spacecraft), but human paranoia starts to take over and the temporary alliance between these powers as they study the aliens starts to fracture. It becomes a race against time to understand the aliens' language well enough to learn why they are here.

Arrival actually snuck up on me. I hadn't heard about it until my friends were already going to see it in the theaters. I hadn't seen any trailers for it and hadn't heard any talk about it. So while this was a surprise for me, it was a very pleasant ones. Considering how many classic films there are in the science fiction genre, especially those in which humans discover they are no longer alone in the universe (e.g. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Contact, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Star Trek: First Contact, and numerous others), it doesn't seem to me that first contact films have much of a punch anymore. I'm not even sure it will come as much of a shock to anyone if we one day do discover there are other forms of intelligent alien life because the oversaturation of these films will have probably prepared us for such an event. However, what set Arrival apart from these other films was that it really focused on the communication aspect of it and the challenges we would face if we did encounter an alien race. So like much excellent science fiction, the "science fiction" stuff was a backdrop to make a larger point. We don't just get a good science fiction story, we get a story that outlines the philosophy of language, and how it is that language helps us to communicate with others. Banks, a linguist, used her knowledge of linguistics to help humanity communicate. A physicist, Donnelly, was also there, but he was useless. It was Banks' show. (Though it was admittedly disconcerting to hear Hawkeye drop an "f" bomb).

Arrival is not a perfect movie. It leads to an unbelievable climax, that mastering the aliens' language can manipulate how you perceive the passage of time. Speaking of perception of time, the aliens are a race that don't perceive time linearly, as we do. Since Banks is learning their language, she begins to perceive time differently than we do, and as the movie progresses we discover that what we thought were flashbacks were actually flash-forwards, and we are seeing events from the future that have yet to unfold. An interesting concept, but as much science fiction does (especially as regards time travel), it takes many liberties with it and even ends up being unrealistic in its execution. A glaring example of this is when Banks needs to contact a Chinese representative to give him some crucial information, but she doesn't have his phone number. She gets his phone number because he reveals it to her at a future event in which they are celebrating their new worldwide peace brought on by a gift given to them by the aliens. But of course, if she had never had his phone number this event would never have taken place (since she would not have been able to contact him), and she would not have been able to get his number in the future. This really felt more like a cheap cop-out to progress the story rather than any sort of insightful comment about the non-linearity of time.

This brings us to the alleged pro-life theme in this movie. Essentially, we learn that Banks' daughter, Hannah, had a rare form of cancer that took her life at a young age. These scenes of Banks' home life are interspersed throughout the present events of the movie. We later learn that this condition was discovered while Hannah was in the womb. Banks' boyfriend/husband (it's not made clear if they were married) wanted to abort Hannah but Banks chose to give her life. This resulted in her boyfriend/husband leaving her to raise Hannah alone. We later discover that these scenes were not flashbacks, but flashforwards, due to the alien language allowing Banks to perceive time differently. So these events have not happened yet. We also learn that Donnelly is the father of Hannah, apparently becoming attracted to Banks through working with her, and this is Hollywood, who haven't quite learned that men and women can work together without hooking up. Since these are flashforwards, and Banks and Donnelly have yet to conceive Hannah, this leaves Banks with a choice: does she still pursue a relationship with Donnelly, thereby causing the events that would conceive Hannah only to watch her die, or avoid a relationship and avoid conceiving Hannah, a girl with a short life span. She eventually decides to let the events play out as she saw them, getting together with Donnelly, since she reasoned that a short time with Hannah is better than no time at all.

I'm always hesitant to try and see pro-life themes in a film or television show, unless I know for sure what the political leaning is of the writer(s) and/or the producer(s) (e.g. see my pro-life analysis of an episode of Doctor Who). This is no different here. I don't know anything about the people behind this film, so my default position on this is to not read too much into what may seem to be a pro-life message (one conservative commentator called Arrival the most pro-life science fiction ever made, even if it was unintentional -- a claim I would disagree with, partially for the reasons outlined below). In fact, broadly speaking, science fiction in general can be seen as pro-life, since many science fiction stories revolve around trying to broaden our conception of what counts as persons, and shows like Star Trek have tackled the question of pregnancies in difficult circumstances and seem to say that giving life to the unborn child is preferable). But that doesn't mean that just because they have loose pro-life themes that they are pro-life as we are, i.e. anti-abortion.

My contention is that given the information we received in the film, I don't think we're justified in calling Banks a "pro-life heroine" (as I've seen from some on social media). I first need to point out that what Banks did wasn't heroic -- giving her child life is not the heroic thing to do, it is the morally obligatory thing to do. She is not a hero because she refused to kill her child who had a fatal illness. She did what any parent is obligated to do. So she's not a hero in that respect. Additionally, we can't say for sure that she's pro-life. All we know is that she chose to have her child in a difficult circumstance. Assuming that she must be pro-life because she chose to keep her child, and calling this a pro-life film, is to tacitly imply that a pro-abortion-choice person wouldn't do that.

In fact, Donnelly, the guy who left Louise and Hannah when Louise decided to keep her, was a likeable character in the film. After he leaves them, Louise still takes great pains to tell Hannah that he's a good man. So it didn't seem like, to me, the movie believed he actually did anything wrong, like it was her choice to have the child and his choice to leave, and both were perfectly fine choices.

Finally, given the time aspect in the film, that raises other questions. First of all, we see that Banks decided to conceive and have her child because of all the wonder and love Hannah brought to her life. But what if Hannah didn't become a dancer, or any of the other things we saw in the flash-forward scenes? What if she, in fact, was confined to a bed for her entire life, or something like that? Would Louise, then, have chosen to conceive her child? In fact, while pro-abortion-choice people erroneously refer to an unborn child as a "potential" person, in the case of Hannah, she really was a potential person in that sense of the word. So really, unless we hold to a B-theory of time (the theory of time that states that all points in time are equally "real" and time passing is just an illusion), Hannah didn't yet exist. If we *do* hold to a B-theory of time, then Hannah already exists and none of the choices Louise made would matter (so all we have to look at is her intent, and in that case her intent would have been determined, so she didn't make a conscious choice). However, if we're talking about the A-theory of time (the theory that states that the past no longer exists and the future doesn't yet exist), then since Hannah didn't yet exist, would it have been wrong to prevent Hannah from coming into existence? At the very least, this doesn't seem nearly as wrong as killing her after she comes into existence. So in this case, we need to have a discussion of whether or not we have any sorts of obligations to future persons, and that's an issue that I haven't looked into too closely. My instinct is that we don't have obligations to future persons, but I don't have a firm opinion on that yet.

At any rate, those are my thoughts on it. What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Response to Joshua Stein's critique of Christopher Kaczor [Clinton Wilcox]

If you haven't yet read The Ethics of Abortion by Christopher Kaczor, you should definitely consider reading it. However, I was asked to give my thoughts on a critical review written by Joshua Stein about Kaczor's book. Ordinarily, reading over this review, I wouldn't have given it a second thought. It doesn't present any serious challenges to Kaczor's book, and he mainly complains about the methodology of the book rather than actually responding to any of Kaczor's arguments. But since I was asked, I'll respond to Stein's claims below.

I've interacted with Stein some on Facebook. From what I've gathered, he's a philosophy professor but to my knowledge, hasn't done any work in the field of philosophy, itself. Other than that I don't know much about him, but you can read his critique on Goodreads here.

The first thing I noticed is Stein's complete lack of engagement with Kaczor's book. He doesn't provide any page numbers so you can see if he's correctly understanding Kaczor's arguments, and he doesn't even seriously engage with any of them. Compare Stein's critique with one of my critical critiques on Amazon.

Stein begins his critique by stating that Kaczor's book is not "good" or "interesting", whereas his own views are based on "good" and "interesting" philosophy. Of course, this is mistaken, as while many pro-choice thinkers are careful thinkers, the philosophy that undergirds the pro-abortion-choice position is not good (and Stein doesn't begin to tell us what he means by "interesting"). The pro-abortion-choice position is grounded in ideas that are highly counterintuitive and easily refutable. If you come at the pro-choice position from a position of bodily rights, the only way this succeeds is if (as Thomson argues) parents have no natural obligations to their offspring. This is clearly absurd. If you arrive at your pro-choice views from a position of functionalism (i.e. the unborn must be able to perform some function before it is considered a person), then your argument is grounded in the same idea that led to human atrocities like the Holocaust and chattel slavery. You are grounding human value in arbitrary criteria to justify being able to kill them.

So what are the alleged problems with Kaczor's book that leads to Stein dismissing it as "not...a very good piece of professional philosophy"? He gives us four major reasons.

1) Stein's first point is Kaczor's Aristotelian assumptions. Now, Stein says that Kaczor's assumptions insert themselves in weird ways into the discussion. Then he tells us that it's perfectly fine to do this in professional philosophy, given that you acknowledge these biases. Then he tells us that Kaczor does this! So Stein's point here is really a non-argument. He's just complaining about Aristotelianism and offers no reason why we should reject it. As someone who also holds to Aristotelianism, Stein's argument from incredulity is not a serious charge against Kaczor's book.

2) Stein's next complaint is that Kaczor switches methods throughout the book. However, he gives us no examples of this. He says there's nothing incoherent in doing this, but he personally finds it annoying. So again, this is a non-argument. He's just complaining about the changing methodology in Kaczor's book while not giving us any examples to make his case. Even if Kaczor does do this, a likely reason is since Kaczor is responding to numerous pro-abortion-choice arguments from a number of different pro-choice thinkers (and not all of them philosophers), Kaczor needs different methods to respond to them because the arguments he is responding to do not all come from the same methodological procedure.

3) Next, Stein says that Kaczor's case is philosophically weak but, again, he provides no evidence of this. He simply says that Kaczor's case isn't sufficiently developed to give a rigorous criticism to. This is clearly false. In the acknowledgements, Kaczor thanks none other than Peter Singer, Jeff McMahan, Michael Tooley, and David Boonin for looking over his manuscript. In fact, Kaczor writes, "David Boonin...also deserves special recognition and gratitude. David read through the entire manuscript twice, the second time providing me with 23 single-spaced pages of comments, questions, objections, and challenges. I am especially indebted to him for this great service." (Christopher Kaczor, The Ethics of Abortion, 2nd ed., Routledge, New York, NY, 2015.) (This is the first time I've ever actually quoted the acknowledgements section from a book.) Considering the caliber of pro-choice thinkers who were reviewing the manuscript and providing helpful comments, I think it much more likely that Stein either did not understand the case Kaczor made, or he did not care enough to give the book a fair read.

Stein asserts that Kaczor "basically draws the assumption that [his positive case for development at conception based on the concept of identity] is most plausible based on the failure of psychological theories of identity." This, of course, leads me to wonder if Stein actually read the book, since Kaczor has an entire chapter titled "Does Personhood Begin at Conception?" and defends what he calls the Endowment view. Kaczor writes, "The endowment account holds that each human being has inherent, moral worth simply by virtue of the kind of being it is." (See chapter six in Kaczor's book.) He then spends the rest of the chapter comparing the endowment view with the performance view of personhood (what I referred to as functionalism, above). Stein is simply being unfair to Kaczor in his critique of Kaczor's book. If his critique is that Kaczor didn't spend enough time defending the endowment view, he can certainly look elsewhere for a fuller treatment of the issue (e.g. Ed Feser's Scholastic Metaphysics or David Oderberg's Real Essentialism).

4) Finally, Stein asserts that Kaczor does not have a sufficient or proficient enough grasp on the positions of his pro-choice interlocutors to be able to comment on them. He asserts that the cases of pro-choice thinkers are not presented passably. He specifically mentions Mary Anne Warren and Peter Singer. But considering I already mentioned that Singer read Kaczor's manuscript, this objection is just silly. If Kaczor didn't understand Singer's arguments, Singer certainly would have set him straight on the arguments. Saying that Kaczor didn't have a good enough grasp on Singer's arguments when Singer reviewed the manuscript is just a lack of awareness of what he, himself, is trying to critique. Considering all the other pro-choice thinkers who also reviewed the manuscript, I think Stein is the one who needs further education on these arguments.

In fact, David Boonin, who I mentioned above, had this to say about Kaczor's book (from the back flap): "This is one of the very best book-length defenses of the claim that abortion is morally impermissible. It is clear, thorough, thoughtful and carefully argued. I would strongly encourage anyone who is interested in the subject to read it and study it." David Boonin teaches ethics at University of Colorado, Boulder, and does do work in philosophy (specifically the abortion issue; Boonin's book on abortion, A Defense of Abortion, is a book I encourage anyone wanting to educate themselves on pro-choice arguments to read). Boonin would not encourage anyone to read and study this book if he did not have confidence in it. Considering the high praise Boonin has for the book, I would take his word over Stein's regarding the usefulness of it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Amanda Marcotte is At it Again [Clinton Wilcox]

And by "it", I mean completely frothing off at the mouth about the "evil" "misogynistic" "anti-choice" movement. Ruth Graham over at Slate wrote a surprisingly well-balanced article about the more alternative pro-life advocates, such as Kelsey Hazzard (of Secular Pro-Life) and Aimee Murphy (of Life Matters Journal). Her article is called The New Culture of Life. This article also led the United States Library of Congress to contact various organizations mentioned in the piece, like Life Matters Journal and New Wave Feminists, informing them they've selected these organizations' webpages for inclusion in the Library's web archive focusing on public policy topics. Seriously, give it a read (note that I don't necessarily agree with all the statements made by the pro-life activists in that article).

True to form, Amanda Marcotte of Salon is not happy that someone would present pro-life people in a positive light, preferring to live in her fantasy world that pro-life people are all stodgy old men who want to control women's bodies. So she wrote a hit piece about the pro-life movement in response to Graham's article, called Hip to be Square: Is there really a feminist, secular anti-choice movement? (Spoiler: no). Clever, right? Not only is it a completely dishonest article, devoid of any serious research, it is also borderline libelous. Seriously, don't give it a read.

Marcotte's piece truly is painful to read. Not only is she completely dishonest about pro-life people, her lack of serious research is astounding. A number of pro-life people were mentioned in her article, including me. I'm going to set the record straight on Marcotte's claims about myself (and Rebecca Stapleford, who was mentioned along with me). I'll leave it to my friends to respond to Marcotte if they so choose.

Below, I'll quote the two paragraphs in Marcotte's article that directly relate to me:

As [Matt] Dillahunty pointed out to me, a "good chunk of [Secular Pro-Life's] blog posts are written by Christians/Catholics", showcasing exactly how difficult it is to drum up much interest among the non-religious for a cause devoted to meddling with other people's sex lives. A perusal of the Secular Pro-Life blog seemed to confirm this observation, with several blog posts being written by Catholics like Rebecca Stapleford and Clinton Wilcox.
Wilcox is one of the two Secular Pro-Life representatives that Dillahunty has debated. On his personal blog, Wilcox argues, "I, myself, have met people who said they did not come to Christ until after they became pro-life" and writes that anti-choice arguments are a good way to lure people into converting to Christianity.
There are at least a half dozen inaccuracies in just these two paragraphs, alone. Let's start with the fact that neither I nor Rebecca Stapleford are Catholics. I am Protestant. Rebecca is also a friend of mine. While she became pro-life as an agnostic, she is now an Evangelical Protestant.

Now let's talk about how she "perused" (does she even know what this word means?) the blog at Secular Pro-Life, found "several" articles by Rebecca and me, and apparently that was enough to conclude that a "good chunk" of SPL's blog posts were written by "Catholics". First, how much is a "good chunk"? If he means a lot, then sure. But what does this prove? It certainly doesn't prove that the majority have been written by religious people. In fact, most of the writers for SPL are non-religious. Instead of looking up how many articles Rebecca and I wrote, maybe she should have looked at who the writers are and compare their religious affiliation.

Now let's talk about her calling me a "representative" of SPL. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a representative of Secular Pro-Life. I do write articles for their blog and I walk with them whenever I attend the Walk for Life, but I am not a representative of their organization. Marcotte is confusing their willingness to work with religious people as their actually being religious.

I also made it very clear to Dillahunty before we debated that I am not a representative of SPL; I write for their blog and was interested in debating him. At no point did I claim to represent SPL. Whether Dillahunty told Marcotte this or Marcotte is assuming it is unclear. Either way, someone is being dishonest here.

Two more inaccuracies to note. She points to an article I wrote on my "personal blog", but the blog she pointed to was the Life Training Institute blog, not my personal blog. Additionally, she claims that I am deceiving people into becoming Christian by first making them pro-life. This, of course, is blatantly false. She is taking my words out of context and paraphrasing them to mean something I obviously didn't mean to any honest observer who reads my article. What I actually said is that my discussions on abortion naturally lead into questions of ultimate reality and human value, and that while sometimes you can convert an atheist to Christianity without talking about the pro-life issue, sometimes atheists need to know that we have reasonable answers to other issues before they take Christianity seriously.

Salon has never been a paragon of critical thinking, but it's truly mind-boggling that they would allow such a deceitful piece to be posted to their website. In just two paragraphs, Marcotte bungled many facts that would have been easy to verify. She also seems intent on painting the pro-life movement as inherently religious, but I wasn't aware the proposition "murdering a human being is wrong" is an inherently religious one. At least we can take comfort in knowing that they can't refute our argument that abortion is wrong because it intentionally kills an innocent human being, so they have to resort to name-calling and alarmist caterwauling.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Q&A: What Do You Say to the "Keep Your Religion to Yourself!" Objection? (Jay Watts)

This past weekend I was speaking to a group at Northwestern University from Students for Life of Illinois as part of that organization’s annual summit. I made the case for life appealing to the three-step strategy that I generally outline:

1)   Simplify the issue by focusing on the single most important question concerning the right or wrong of abortion, what are the unborn?

2)   Argue our case using science and philosophy. The science of embryology tells us that from the moment of fertilization the unborn are a whole, distinct, and living human organism. Philosophy tells us that there is no essential difference from the embryo or fetus that we once were and the more mature human we are today. Differences of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependence do not do sufficient philosophical work to explain why it was ok to kill us then, indeed it was a Constitutionally protected right, but that if someone did the same thing to us at this stage in our life it would be the worst moral offense one human being could commit against another human being.

3)  Argue well, in a way that aims to win people with good arguments and not merely to beat people down with information.

During Q&A, a young woman asked the following question: What do you do when someone says this all just your religious view and shouldn’t be pushed onto others that do not share your religion?

My answer:

As I understand that objection, it claims that the belief that all human beings share a common intrinsic dignity by virtue of what we and are owed basic duties and obligations, not the least of which is to refrain from killing them, is by its nature a religious argument. My response has three parts.

First, it isn’t clear that this is true. None of the arguments that I provided are religious by nature. There are atheists that would reject the suggestion that objective moral values require a theistic worldview. Sam Harris appeals to objective morality when he condemns the practice of female genital mutilation in certain Muslim cultures. He isn’t arguing that those cultures violate a western cultural norm, but that the practice itself is objectively wrong for all cultures. Atheists like Sam Harris and Michael Martin have worked hard to ground objective moral values in a non-theistic worldview precisely because they acknowledge the existence of those values. Whether I believe that they can succeed in doing so is irrelevant to this point. It can be accepted that an appeal to objective morality is not religious by its nature.

This leads me to my second point; I never mentioned my faith or personal beliefs as part of my argument. It is true that I am passionately and unapologetically Christian and that my faith informs every area of my life. So what? I never said abortion is wrong because God said so. People objecting to our case need to address the science and philosophy, not my faith. This argument commits either the Genetic Fallacy (the pro-life argument was birthed out of religious communities) or amounts to a plain old Ad Hominem attack (Jay is religious therefore he is wrong). Objectors have a responsibility to interact with the arguments presented regardless of who is presenting them or what motivation I may have for putting forth the arguments.

Dr. Condic presented the case for the identification of early human life as a new independent organism from fertilization. (Maureen Condic was also at this event. See her article here). I presented the philosophical case that the best explanation of our experience of a shared universal human dignity that transcends cultures and subjective interests is that our dignity and value are grounded in our humanity. Replying with, “Yeah, but religion..” hardly addresses either of those arguments. Put them back on the hot seat and make them answer the question, “What are the unborn?”

Finally, why do they get to decide without argument what considerations are allowed into the marketplace of ideas? Who empowered them to declare that secular humanist reasons and materialistic naturalistic reasons can be publically advocated, but so-called religious reasons cannot? I have the right to advocate for my beliefs and try to convince others that my views offer the best explanations and solutions to the questions we experience in our world. If they want to argue that their worldview is superior then they need to make that case, but they don’t have the right to make it in a vacuum where other competing worldviews have been shut out of consideration. 

In truth, they are inconsistent in their objection to religious reasons informing advocacy. Where is the handwringing when Bono dedicates his considerable influence to acquiring help for people in Africa suffering from Aids and poverty? He clearly states that his desire to help is born out of his Christian faith, and yet he is applauded for those efforts. When HBO’s documentary program VICE ran a story about George W. Bush committing U.S. aid to help Bono establish programs that transformed the manner that some African countries fought Aids, no one cried foul when Bush stated his and Bono’s shared Christian values were his motivation for action. It is only when we stand up against one of the sacred pets of the progressive culture like abortion that they suddenly demand a litmus test for having a public voice on issues.

In a nutshell, I will talk about what I want, when I want, wherever I want, and they better come with more than “Shut up because you are religious!” if they wish to stop me. They had better be ready to make their case, because I won’t be deterred from making ours.


(Note: This is the answer as I gave it. It was heavily informed and influenced by the works of Hadley Arkes, Robert George, Greg Koukl, and Scott Klusendorf. All credit where credit is due.)

Friday, October 7, 2016

Baby On Board [Clinton Wilcox]

I've spent the last week in England and will be returning to California tomorrow. It's been a wonderful week but I'll be happy to finally be going home. I will look forward to returning next year. The three articles I wrote this week were written in England (the first one in Battle East Sussex, the second and third in London).

As I was riding in the tube to get to a destination, I saw a pregnant woman wearing a button that said "baby on board". It's a rear windshield placard I used to see around here in California, but this one had the official logo of the Underground tube on it. The button was officially made by the Underground tube in a country in which abortion is legal up until 24 weeks.

This kind of thing underscores the extreme inconsistency in our cultures. In the United States, in some states if you murder a pregnant woman, you'll be tried for two murders, as in the case of Scott and Lacy Peterson. Yet if the mother allows the child to be killed, it is no longer murder but abortion. Wantedness or unwantedness should not determine one's moral status, yet in many countries, that is exactly the situation we have.

Whether or not a person is wanted is a completely arbitrary consideration for human value. There are many people who are not valued, yet it would still be wrong to kill them (e.g. homeless people are generally seen as drains on society, but we cannot kill them). These kinds of laws just underscore how dangerous it is to live in the womb in our societies. No society is safe unless that society grounds human value in the nature of the human being, not in some arbitrary property possessed by that individual.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Is Making Abortion Illegal Legislating a Religious Viewpoint? [Clinton Wilcox]

The pro-life position entails that since unborn human beings are full human persons at fertilization, if you kill an unborn human being at any point in his/her development, you are committing an act of unjustified homicide which should be forbidden by law. Of course, many pro-choice people believe, not having actually listened very closely to the pro-life argument, that the pro-life view is grounded only in a religious belief. So they respond that we cannot legislate a religious point of view into law.

Of course, they are correct. But what they miss is that we are not trying to force people to become Christians, or worship Yahweh, or pray the Lord's Prayer three times a day. If the pro-life argument is correct, that human beings are full human persons from fertilization, then the law of the land can reflect that. As I've heard LTI's president Scott Klusendorf mention in a debate against Malcolm Potts, the law does not have to take a position on the soul to make murder illegal. If the unborn are full human persons as adults are full human persons, then the law is justified in making abortion illegal, just like it makes infanticide illegal, and just like it makes murder of older people illegal.

Consider a Venn diagram with two circles that intersect (hopefully my mathematical friends will be proud of me). In the left circle is the set "God's laws," and in the right circle is the set "humanity's laws." In the middle is the intersection between the two. We are not trying to legislate something that is merely God's law into the law of the land (again, we are not trying to make people follow Christian rituals or worship Yahweh). We are legislating one of God's laws into the law of the land, both of which intersect. Murder, rape, and theft also oppose God's laws, but they are laws that we should also institute into the laws of the land. Abortion is no different, as it is the intentional killing of an innocent human person.

The pro-life position naturally entails that abortion should be illegal. If the pro-life position is correct, then our government has no moral choice but to make the act illegal.